Every Sunday afternoon from now until November, the Bronx’s largest-ever flea market is hosting a rotating group of vendors at Fordham Plaza, with the goal of connecting local merchants to the 1.5 million people who call the borough home.
Marco Shalma, the organizer behind the popular food-based Bronx Night Market, said he started Fordham Flea after seeing an explosion of vendor applications from people who’d turned their crafting hobbies into businesses during the pandemic. By providing them with an in-person event to network and make sales, he’s looking to support local businesses that might otherwise struggle to get off the ground.
“Most of our merch vendors are a single employee — just an entrepreneur,” said Shalma. “And a lot of them did not get any support, including Paycheck Protect Program grants or unemployment. But they still pushed through to create a small business for themselves.”
Asia Nikole Hickson, the founder of Creations by Asia Nikole, a candle and self-care business, is a full-time social worker from the Bronx. Nikole said she started her company in 2019 as a personal creative outlet. And though she’s since expanded into e-commerce, she sees the Fordham Flea as a crucial way to connect with her borough.
“Being based out of the Bronx is my passion, just because I feel like a lot of people who live and work in the Bronx look for resources or services in Manhattan or [New] Jersey because the Bronx is looked down on as a poor community,” said Hickson. “I wanted to create a business and bring a product to my community because we’re not bad, we’re not poor; there are good things in the Bronx.”
Another vendor, Carolina Rivera, was working as a bartender and Uber driver before being hospitalized with COVID-19 early in the pandemic. Since then, she’s focused on building her business, Crystal + Irie, which sells handmade soaps and other products that incorporate healing crystals.
“My goal is to basically grow the company. And as soon as next year, I want to get warehouse space or a storefront,” said Rivera. “Also, people ask me how I make these items, so I do want to do classes.”
The flea market operates within the borders of the Fordham Road Business Improvement District, the largest commercial corridor in the Bronx. An estimated 80,000 people criss-cross the bustling corridor between Jerome and Webster Avenues daily.
Shalma said that helping the Fordham Flea’s vendors reach that level is part of the mission.
“In the Bronx Night Market, in the past five years, we’ve seen over two dozen businesses start from nothing — like a George Foreman grill and a lot of energy — turn into multiple units around the city, or brick-and-mortar stores,” said Shalma. “We take great pride in that. Even though Fordham Flea is still a baby, we can already see there’s a strong group of people who are ahead of the curve in the way they take themselves seriously.”
Fordham Flea is held every Sunday at Fordham Plaza from 12 p.m. to 7 p.m.